A Lions legend is joining the franchise's front office as it attempts to chart a new course.
Former Lions linebacker Chris Spielman has joined the organization as special assistant to the chairman and president and CEO, the team announced Tuesday. The full-time role will see Spielman report directly to president and CEO Rod Wood, and will include Spielman in interviews for the team's vacant general manager and head coach positions.
When it comes to the aforementioned search process, Spielman will work with a group of advisors that includes Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation executive director Rod Graves (who is also advising the Houston Texans with their search), Rock Ventures VP of business development Mark Hollis, and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, who was a superstar running back for the Lions before abruptly retiring from the game after his age-30 season.
Lions principal owner and chairman Sheila Ford Hamp touted Spielman as "a tremendous ambassador" for the team "since the day he first put on a uniform as a rookie in 1988," adding Spielman will be allowed to "work across various departments on both the football and business sides of our organization."
"I am humbled and excited about the opportunity to be involved with the franchise that is truly a part of me," Spielman said in a release from the team. "The opportunity to work with Rod Wood and every single person in the Lions organization can't get here fast enough. To Lions fans everywhere, I will do everything in my power to help Mrs. Hamp and the Ford Family achieve their vision of something we can all be proud of."
Spielman joined Detroit in 1988 as a second-round pick (29th overall) out of Ohio State, where he starred as an All-American linebacker. The Canton, Ohio, native was a standout at Massillon Washington High School, becoming the first high school athlete to land on a box of Wheaties. He played in Detroit from 1988-1995 before joining the Buffalo Bills in 1996 and 1997, missing the 1998 season to help his wife, who was battling cancer. He signed with the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999, but did not play in a regular season game due to a neck injury that forced him to retire.
Spielman has remained involved with the game as a broadcaster, serving as a color commentator for college and NFL games.
Detroit is looking to replace coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, who were fired following Detroit's loss on Thanksgiving.